SeaWorld in San Diego ended their controversial orca shows this past Sunday, January 8, 2017. Instead, they will be replacing them with more educational-type exhibits and activities. Declining ticket sales combined with activism has resulted in SeaWorld Entertainment making major changes to their park and to how they use their animals. SeaWorld plans to have an interim show where they will place a natural backdrop in their stadium and show off some of the natural talents of the orcas, instead.
In 2015, the San Diego Coastal Commission approved an elaborate makeover of SeaWorld orca exhibits, however they banned breeding the whales as a condition of that approval. Sea World would still keep their existing orcas, many of whom were born in captivity, but would not be allowed to breed new ones or obtain any from the wild. The new orca exhibit, called Blue World, consists of greatly enlarged tanks as well as a natural setting.
San Antonio and Orlando’s parks will begin making similar changes in 2019. A completely orca-free SeaWorld is expected to open in Abu Dhabi in 2022. During the transitions, Sea World will eliminate 320 jobs across all its parks as part of a restructuring program and cost-cutting measures. Sea World has also teamed up with one of their critics, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and has pledged money to fund animal rescue. They also plan to incorporate more rides and other activities to their parks. Though they have ended their orca shows, it is unknown if shows featuring other animals, including rescued shelter pets, will be modified.